November 22, 2013

The Lost Art of Handwriting.

Recently, I spent 12 weeks student teaching at a local middle school and was astounded by the number of 6th graders who couldn’t write in cursive.

Apparently, in many schools around the country, cursive writing has fallen by the wayside. (As a friend/former elementary school teacher explained, there is often so much emphasis on testing that many teachers simply do not have the time to teach it.)

It makes me sad. I clearly recall being in third grade and morning lessons consisting of copying the teacher’s beautiful script on our oversized pieces of green lined paper. (My teacher, who was well into her 50s at the time, shared that she had done similar exercises herself as a child.)

In order to motivate us, we even watched a filmstrip on the old Super 8 film projector about a boy who lived in a faraway kingdom and was able to win the hand of a princess thanks to his beautiful penmanship. Granted, as an adult I can look back and appreciate just how cheesy it was but the message was clear: good handwriting is an important skill.

Nowadays, though, that is not the case.

Today, nearly everyone types on a keyboard. Texting, emails and social media have replaced written letters. Even most thank-you notes are sent electronically.

While I love the convenience of the above, it cannot replace the actual look, feel and even smell of receiving a handwritten letter.

Many years ago, I dated a man who was much older than me and wrote letters. When the relationship ended, it was nice to actually have a bundle of those letters, cards, etc. and see a physical by-product of the relationship. When I eventually decided to throw them away, it felt like I was saying an actual good-bye to that era of my life. Fast forward a few years later and the end of another relationship, and I cannot say I experienced the same feeling of closure when I went through my inbox and deleted emails.

Ironically, I am not someone who likes my own handwriting.

Going back to my third grade experience for a moment, I remember my teacher’s comments written in red pen saying that she could not read my handwriting and my letters were poorly-formed. She was right. As my late grandmother once put it, I wrote like a chicken.

Over time, my “chicken scratch” became more legible, but it was never “pretty.” Nonetheless, it was “mine” and to this day, I can recognize my own writing from across the room as well as that of my mother, father and late grandmother.

My four year old daughter and others of her generation may never experience that and frankly, I think that is sad.

Not only should handwriting continue to be taught, but there should be an effort to return to good penmanship or at least strive to aim for our personal best.

While copying those letters did not result in perfect penmanship, it did teach me a lot about patience, practice and aiming for the best, even if I ultimately could not be the best.

Those are not bad lessons to instill in a child or even an adult.

Therefore, I hope others will join me in setting aside the keyboard for a moment and putting an actual pen to paper. This is one blast from the past that should be saved.


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Editor: Catherine Monkman

{Photo: Wikimedia Commons.}

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